There is something magical about the Bosporus, the straight running across the city of Istanbul. It forms part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia and separates Asian Turkey from European Turkey and it connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. The Bosporus is very present in the city of Istanbul. You can view the enormous container ships as they slide past, as well as take a small sailing vessel to explore its shores and nearby island. This week I was very privileged to be invited on a cruise, starting from the European side, along the shores and ending up on Büyükada island.
The Bosporus has 620 waterfront houses (yalı) built during the Ottoman period along the strait’s European and Asian shorelines. You can also see many of Istanbul’s landmarks along the water, like the Topkapi Palace, Hagias Sophia, the Rumelian Castle and Maidens Tower. I also personally enjoyed the picturesque private houses, that were beautifully kept and painted in light pastel colors. Sailing along the Bosporus, Istanbul seems to stretch out forever and ever. On the boat, we enjoyed a lunch with local delicacies from the sea: mussels with rice filling, and fried and seasoned little fish. In true Turkish spirit, there were many fresh and filling side salads, cheese and bread.
Finally, after a day of sailing and enjoying the views, we exited the straight and set course toward the Princes Islands. The Princes’ Islands are a cluster of 9 islands southeast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. The islands are mainly car free and known for their horse drawn carriages. Thus, it stinks of horse all the way to the sea. If you disregard the smell, and like horses, the island is calm and picturesque, with old wooden villas, beachside restaurants and boutique hotels. We arrived on our own boat, however there are public ferries running between Büyükada and the mainland.
I spent my free time just by walking around and taking pictures, eating ice cream and drinking cold brew coffee. There is enough to see just along the streets. However, at the highest point of Büyükada, there is a 6th-century church, Hagia Yorgi, with panoramic views back to Istanbul. Its an hours hike up the hill, or alternatively, one can rent a horse carriage.
Last but not least, I would like to praise the wonderful, independent hotel we stayed at, the Splendid Palace Hotel. It’s a very cozy family owned hotel, with nice views towards Istanbul. The hotel lacks modern amenities, like a water kettle or tv, but the mansion is beautiful, and every room has its own small balcony. Breakfast can be enjoyed on the terrace overlooking the sea, and its quiet and calm – very relaxing.
After two days at the islands and on the sea, I returned to Sweden relaxed and happy. The Bosporus had delivered on its promise!